The Piano Bike Kid

June 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

 Not exactly a  piano, definitely not a kid, but possibly a bike or a bike-like object here in River City. Dezy Walls has brought his singing and piano playing to the streets of Portland. You can read all about it here.

Watch a video, listen to his songs, find out where you can next see and hear him here.

Listening to Music Aids in Stroke Recovery

June 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

Vertical cross-section of the human cerebellum...

Vertical cross-section of the human cerebellum, showing folding pattern of the cortex, and interior structures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My husband Charles had a cerebellar stroke about 4 years ago. He become quite a celebrity in the local hospital. All the neurology students showed up to visit, along with an assortment of doctors, residents, nurses, etc. I guess things were slow  that week on the neurology ward and a guy sitting up in bed building Lego models was a big draw.

Charles is not normally the person you’d go to for a conversation. He’s a “Just the facts, ma’am ,” sort of guy.  But the medical types all wanted his opinion on the weather, the ball game, his lunch and the model he was building.  I’d never seen so much idle chatter in his vicinity. They didn’t care what he talked about, they just wanted  him to speak. Then, once someone got him going, they’d all watch him with keen attention, like they were dogs and he was eating a hamburger.

The talking never failed to please. The crowd would get noticeably cheerier after some remarks on the weather. Then they would move on to the next fascinating skill: Could he touch his nose with his finger? The entire crowd would watch as finger was applied to nose. Breath was held. Eyebrows were raised. Heads were shaken in astonishment.

My husband is a bright man.  He was also an AAU swimmer who swam his way to Stanford on a scholarship. Talking and touching his nose were not previously thought to be his best act. But somehow, having lost a good portion of his cerebellum, talking  and touching his nose became marvels of achievement. People missing what he was missing were not supposed to be doing what he was doing.

Somehow he missed a really terrible accident. Call me biased, but I think  a recently published article hints at why he suffered so few ill effects from his stroke. This article says that listening to music seems to help reorganize the brain after a stoke and repair the damage.

It seems to me that listening to piano music 4 or 5 hours a day must also have a protective effect or else someone near and dear to me would be a  basket case today. All those piano lessons and his wife’s practicing must have made him nearly invincible.

Four years later, he is not only fully recovered from the small effects of the stroke, but is functioning better than ever. I attribute it all to the concentrated doses of piano music he receives every day.

Ask your doctor if piano music is right for you.

YouTube’s top pianist invites you to her Royal Albert Hall rehearsals

June 4, 2012 Comments Off on YouTube’s top pianist invites you to her Royal Albert Hall rehearsals

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Live streaming via webcam of Valentina Lisitsa’s practice for an upcoming recital. A true piano geek’s entertainment.

Maria João Pires Plays It Cool Under Fire

May 27, 2012 § 1 Comment

What are a performer’s worst fears? How about being ready to play one Mozart concerto and hearing the orchestra start a different one?  This video shows the fine pianist from Portugal in just this situation. She shows amazing aplomb, calmly switching from one concerto to another, without the score or visible anxiety.

Something similar once happened to me. I was  playing in the orchestra as a last minute addition. The piece was unfamiliar to me (a trombone concerto) and in those days before YouTube I had never heard it. The orchestra started playing and I was counting my rests, getting ready to come in, but-what the heck were they playing? It was nothing like what was in my part. They were in a completely different key, a different tempo and a different meter. Was this piece really that far-out? Did I miss something?  Maybe I was not as good a musician as I thought. And why was the conductor flashing the peace sign at me so insistently?

Oh! Not peace-TWO! Second! Second movement! It seems that everyone but me knew that they were skipping the first movement and starting with the second. Surprise!

Luckily I was just playing the piano as part of the orchestra and the spotlight was on the soloist. But I can break out in a sweat any time I want just by remembering those first few moments of confusion. How Ms. Pires pulled off this calm switcheroo is beyond me.

To return your pulse to its normal serenity, here is Ms. Pires playing the lovely second movement to the fifth Bach keyboard concerto, BWV 1056.

Speaking of Classical Music In Portland…

April 30, 2012 § 2 Comments

Max Ball, younger than me by about 50 years, plays his piano reduction of the Rite of Spring, by Stravinsky. According to Norman Lebrecht, who is a real journalist and not just passing things along like I do, meaning he actually did some research on this kid, Max is self-taught as a composer and is currently studying violin with Greg Ewer.

The choice of the Rite of Spring is fascinating. What else does Mr. Ball have up his compositional sleeves?


Where, in the US, do they (we) buy the most classical records?

April 23, 2012 Comments Off on Where, in the US, do they (we) buy the most classical records?

Right here in River City, Stump Town, The Rose City, PDX, Puddle Town, Rip City.

Here is the full article, by Norman Lebrecht at Slipped Disc.  I would summarize it in some artful way but I have some practicing to do. You’ll have to read it yourself, if you’re done practicing for today.

Eminent Scientist Explains How Musicians’ Brains Are Different

April 16, 2012 § 1 Comment

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